Love, love will tear us apart… again.

I haven’t read any books in the past seven days. SEVEN DAYS. Usually I’m good for at least one, but normally two. And what is the reason for this atrocious literary failure?

Ugh. It is awful. Wonderfully, gloriously, gut-wrenchingly AWFUL.

Anyway. That’s all I had to say. Imma go stare at my ceiling and try to turn off my brain.

– xo R

I bring you myrrh… myrrh-DER! *gasp*

What up, what up, my rainbow sparkle pony gangstas? I hope life is super fly and that you have infinite chill, unlike me, who has, as the kids are so fond of saying, zero f*cking chill. I won’t go into detail, but I will say that the career prospects have taken an expected but nonetheless devastating turn. *Cough* unions *cough,* you know. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO BE A LIBRARIAN? SOMEBODY PLEASE LET ME SHUSH PEOPLE ON A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL, THAT IS ALL I WANT IN LIFE. God.

Anyway.

Today we’re talking about myrrhder.

I will never stop finding that funny, rip vine.

So I read Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies this week, mostly because if it’s good enough for HBO, it’s good enough for me goddammit. I mean, HBO made Deadwood, right? Therefore they are forever without sin in my eyes. BUT I honestly wasn’t expecting to like it. If reading critically for this blog has taught me anything, it’s that I’m an insufferable genre snob and should be deeply deeply ashamed. Well, jokes on me, because I really liked this book. Tsk tsk, Robyn, you fool, when will you abandon your foolish genre prejudices and learn that stories are complex, multi-faceted things that defy easy categorization? WHEN?

Okay, let’s do this thing.

Cover Talk: Atrocious.

The Summary HeistBig Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Robyn Says: Excellent. Worthy of the hype – and I can see why it’s been made into a TV series. It’s got that cinematic momentum, that perfect pacing that made me want to keep reading every time I reached the end of the chapter. I’ve written a lot of fanfiction (shut up) and I know how difficult it is to keep your story taut without feeling rushed. So hats off, to Moriarty.

I thought the characters were exceptional. Each of the three protagonists were fully realized, well-rounded characters, and I’m surprised at how well the points of view were balanced. It truly felt like an ensemble piece. I really wish I could find a way to fit the three of them into the maiden/mother/crone trope, because who doesn’t love that one, but I’d say instead that each of the three women – Madeline, Celeste, and Jane – felt like a combination of all three “life stages.” I especially appreciated the depth given to Madeline’s character, who felt like the most ‘normal’ of the three. It would have been easy to reduce her to a stereotypical, overbearing suburban mom, whose problems are insignificant when compared to the struggles Jane and Celeste are facing, but Madeline is never made ridiculous. Her problems might not be the kind that warrant special episodes of Degrassi Jr. High, but they’re still problems, the kind that most of us deal with every day.

So. I should probably mention now that the novel contains incidences of domestic abuse. The cover copy quoted in my Summary Heist doesn’t really make that clear, so I guess *spoiler,* but I think it’s important to mention. None of the scenes are graphic, but it was still jarring to read. Some stuff was… unsettling, at least for me, to read.

But let’s move on.

The story itself was great – darkly funny and cleverly plotted. I loved the way the stories intersected, too, and the big finale scene was genuinely surprising. The supporting characters were delightful, too, and I thought that Moriarty did a stunning job of creating a well-written, enjoyable story that deftly explored themes of motherhood, female friendships, and self-love.

The small details were really great. There’s this one little drama involving the kindergarten class’s communal stuffed toy, Harry the Hippo. The toy is shared amongst the children, who each get a chance to take it home over the weekend. When Harry goes missing, the tensions that had been simmering below the surface come to a boil. It was so absurd and so damn real.

Verdict: Read it. And try to read it before watching the series. This is my rule for any adaptation, but I think it’s particularly true for this one. I’m going to enjoy seeing how my vision of the story compares to HBO’s.

Best lines: I highlighted so many lines, but then when I went back and looked at them, they were all about abuse :/ Since we don’t have enough time to sort through my deep-seated issues and repressed PTSD, have one that’s a little lighter.

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”

Same, girl. Same.

Fancasting couch: The show seems to have done a pretty good job casting the leads, so I’m gonna just leave this link right here.

Book Boyfriend material: None. It’s okay, I’ve got plenty to keep me happy.

Rating: 8 our of 10 stuffed hippo toys. Rip Harry the Hippo, we hardly knew ye.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT: Kids can be evil little monsters, can’t they?

Creepy.

Oh, here’s Book Cat.

img_20170221_215241_828

Get away from me, human, can’t you see I’m reading?

Touchy. Must be a good book.

Later, my dudes.

xo R

 

Right in the feels

Hey hey, boys and girls. I hope life is going swimmingly for you all. I am currently waiting to hear back about a job I don’t want but can’t afford to turn down if it’s offered to me, so I’m getting panics attacks about getting the job AND not getting the job. Adulthood is a magical journey, kiddies.

In am attempt to stave off the encroaching madness, I’ve been reading a lot of romances (this is a very sober, deliberate Life Decision and is in no way related to the recent feast commemorating a certain beheaded Roman saint. How dare you suggest such a thing.) It has, so far, been kinda working. I think. (I mean, I don’t feel crazier…?)

Anyway. Although I usually don’t review romances here on the blog – mostly because I am still a bit ashamed to admit that I read them, but also because I rarely read ones that I like enough to write about for a couple hundred words) – I am going to make an exception because I recently read a book so good that I ended up reading the rest of the authors books in a week. That’s six books in five CRAZY days, guys. Thank god I have no life, or it would have taken, like, six days.

The book that initiated this intense bout of glomming is Kulti by Mariana Zapata.

Cover Talk: Not bad. I like that there aren’t any people on the cover – it’s different from the naked male torso trend (which is in no way a bad thing, you can never have enough naked male torsos, but sometimes a girl just wants a change). The empty, imposing stadium suits the story, and centers Sal as the protagonist before the book is even opened. Yay feminism. I also like that this might be mistaken for a general fiction book, because you know I fckn hate the arbitrary nature of genre classifcations despite being aware of their fundamentality to coherent systems of organization. And you might be able to get a dude to read it before he realizes what he’s gotten himself into.

The Summary HeistWhen the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.

It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.

Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.

“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”

This was going to be the longest season of her life.

Robyn Says: Oh man this book. This boooooooooooooooooooook. So so good. SO GOOD. The summary of this book doesn’t really do it justice. Think of that crush you had when you were 13. It may or may not have been a pointy-eared elf whose name rhymes with perfect ass. (Sorry.) And then imagine that that crush turning up in your actual life and being your professional mentor. It would be amazing and terrible at the same time. I mean, I don’t think I could handle Legolas giving me tips on library programming.

And then imagine that Legolas wasn’t just your mentor, he was also kind of a dick. A gorgeous, talented, horrible dick.  A gorgeous, talented, horrible dick whom you fall in love with, against your better judgement. And then, the gorgeous, talented, horrible dick (spoiler) falls in love with you. Eeeeeee! Yay for my favourite trope, Enemies to Lovers!!!

And that is the basis for Kulti.

I kind of hate myself a bit because I’ve heard about how great this book was for ages, but put off reading it because sports romances aren’t my thing at all. Why do I keep doing this to myself?? When will I learn that the romance community IS ALWAYS RIGHT???

Okay, enough fangirling. I straight up loved this book, and part of me wants to forget about doing this stupid review and just throw the book at you, but alas, that is not the traditional book blogger way. Time to use the words. Luckily, I know words, I have the best words. (God help us all.)

I loved Zapata’s style of writing. It’s effortless and genuine, and so funny. Seriously, I was grinning like an idiot most of the time I was reading this (when I wasn’t mooning over the love story). The novel uses first-person POV, and it was so easy and enjoyable to slip into Sal’s mind. I felt like she and I had been friends for years. I didn’t mind not getting Kulti’s version of the romance. Male points-of-view are meh for me anyway. It’s not like I know what the hell any guy in real life is thinking – why should it be any different in fiction?

The story itself is excellent. Other reviews mention that this is a slow-burn romance, but it’s more like  s  l  o  o  o  w-burn. The pay-off is worth it, though, and I think that more romances, especially contemporary ones, would benefit from this unusual (for the genre, anyway) pacing choice. It makes the relationship between Sal and Kulti seem more believable, and it also allows for way more character development than I usually expect. That’s not to say nothing swoon-worthy happens until the end – I loved seeing how the romance evolved from outright hostility to reluctant friendship, and then to something more (god, I’m all moony right now just thinking about it).

And, like the best romances, so much more going on. Sal is a well-known figure in the world of women’s soccer, and a large part of the novel focuses on the highs and lows of her career while also touching on her relationship with her family and her struggles with self-doubt and passivity. The issue of the challenges female athletes face in terms of credibility and financial stability compared to their male colleagues is covered, too; +1 for feminism in romance. Kulti, who occupies the strange liminal celebrity of a retired celebrity athlete, wrestles with crafting a meaningful life after the end of his soccer career.

Both characters, but Sal especially, are well-rounded and complex. As I mentioned earlier, I felt like Sal and I were old friends. She’s funny, capable, kind, and driven, but she’s enough of a mess to be relatable, too. Kulti is my favourite kind of romance dude – tall, hot, and mean. And German, so he’s basically perfect. And the supporting characters were great, too – Sal’s dad was adorable.

There wasn’t actually anything that I didn’t like about this book. Mature, capable heroine, gruff, bearded, Teutonic hero, enemies to lovers, feminism, so-sweet-it-gave-me-cavities romance, and some hot-as-f*ck sex scenes. Kulti is basically perfect.

Verdict: READ IT. READ IT SO HARD.

Best Lines: God, there are so many. I love the way Zapata writes – you’re either tearing up from laughter or from the Feels. Here’s one I’m going to stick into my old bullet journal. “I had this one life, and if I didn’t make the best of it, then what was the point?”

Fancasting Couch: *NEW THING* Let’s do this:

mv5bmtg2ntk2ntc4mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwotawmjuynw-_v1_ux214_cr00214317_al_

SAL ∼ Paulina Gaitan – she’s a bit young to play Sal, but physically, she’s exactly how I imagine her.

3835fab1d436cad5fedde9fbc8fc379a

KULTI ∼ Til Schweiger circa Inglourious  Basterds. Schwing. A bit old to be the German Chocolate Cake, but so so hot. Just add a beard, and BOOM, Kulti.

Rating: 10 out of 10 German Chocolate Cakes. Yes, I know they’re not really German. Get out.

Book Boyfriend Status: *ANOTHER NEW THING* (I’m really bored) Kulti, you are old and hot and German. You are my perfect man in every way. Welcome to the Book Boyfriend club. Take a seat between Heathcliff and Uhtred of Bebbanburg.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT: I think I might need to get out more.

Oh, here’s Book Cat.

c4kckfaweaaaoka

You do need to get out more. Now get away from me. I’m stretching my quads. Got a hot date tonight. Unlike someone *cough*

Way hard, Titus. Way harsh.

Auf Wiedersehen, meine liebe Lebkuchen!

-xo, R

I will go down with this ship

Let’s talk about ships.

No, not THAT kind of ship. The fanfic kind.

It’s probably not a secret that I write and read fanfiction. A lot of it. No shame 2017. It’s in my DNA. I was shipping OTPs before I even knew there were names for what I was doing. But I realize not everyone is a giant nerd, so I will pause, and provide some definitions.

Ship – short for relationship. Can also be used as a verb, shipping, which, according to wikipedia, refers to “the desire by fans for two or more people, either real-life people or fictional characters (in film or literature) to be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise.” Ships can be canon or non-canon. The pairing can be referred to by using a portmanteau, an x, or a backslash (i.e., Brangelina, Brad x Angelina, Brad/Angelina).

Canon/non-canon – anything canon is true to the original work. Shipping Hermione and Ron, for example, would be canon, while shipping Hermione with Harry would be A1 non-canon.

OTP – “one true pairing.” Your dearest ship. The one that sustains you through the darkest times. Hermione x Ron, Darryl x Carol, Legolas x Aragorn, me x Jason Momoa. Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

NoTP – the worst possible pairing you can imagine. Hermione x Snape, for example. No no no, burn it all with fire.

Okay, good, now we’re all clear on terms. So.

Let’s talk about ships.

God, I have SO MANY. But a recent and much beloved ship is from Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. Have you read it? If not, get on that. Five books in, with one more book to come, it’s an excellent series overall, with a rich cast of diverse characters, set in a world that’s both innovative and familiar. It’s chock full of magic, adventure, violence, bad-ass lady assassins, female friendships, complicated relationships, feminism, serious discussions of the lifelong repercussions of trauma on both the victim and her loved ones, and, if all that isn’t enough for you, hear this, friends: this series is teeming with romantic possibilities. Teeming, I say.

But back to my ship. No, it’s not Manorian. Definitely not Rowaelin (kind of a soft No-TP there, don’t @ me). Not even Lysandra x Aedion.

Elide. x. Lorcan. Elorcan, if you will. (Oh, I will.)

This ship has everything I love. Enemies to lovers (and, spoiler, right back again). Forced proximity. Fake relationship. Marriage (fake, but still) of convenience. Hurt/comfort. The tough grumpy alpha asshole turning into a giant teddy bear around a tiny lady (maybe not an established trope, but whatever, it is mine own individual jam). Bad-ass genius Slytherin-queen reluctantly falling for said asshole teddy bear. Uuuuuuuugh I love it so hard.

And now, tumblr:

Holy god. And then there’s

Ermagherd. And lookee here

gottDAMN.

(that last one tho)

If you have read the most recent book in the Throne of Glass series, Empire of Storms, you will know exactly what I mean when I say

I   will   go   down   with   this   ship.

Hard.

Whelp. Now that I’ve embarrassed myself, what are some of y’all’s favourite ships?

Well, Librarian, I would have to say that my OTP is myself and the cat who lives in the mirror.

Awww, T. You so cute.

I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this.

Hey, baybays. How’s life in this Orwellian hellscape treating you? I myself am coping quite well, I think. Only five breakdowns this week. Things are improving!

And whenever current affairs are bringing me down (so basically, all the time), I just have to think about the Saturday before last’s historic Women’s March, and I feel better. I really wanted to attend the Toronto march in Queen’s Park, but was confined to my bed with ‘women’s problems’ – oh, the irony! So I had to settle for witnessing the marches all around the world on twitter, which was almost as good. It still makes me a bit teary to look at all of the photos of women banding together to fight for human rights. THIS is why intersectional feminism is absolutely vital – we’re not just stronger together. When all the ladies get in formation, we’re goddamn invincible.

So now that we’re feeling feminist af, let’s dive into this week’s review. What’s more appropriate than turning some of that girl power onto a book with a very questionable romance and some… less than feminist lessons. The book: The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon.

I’d heard about this book somewhere on the interwebs, but it was when it racked up a Goodreads award nomination for best fantasy. That’s pretty high praise, right? And obviously, this book has a stellar rating on the site, which is my usual metric when deciding whether to buy a book. In fact, the reviews were so positive that I actually bought the e-book at FULL PRICE (okay, fun fact, I refuse to pay for e-books unless they’re on sale; I spend, um, a lot of time hunting down e-book sales everyday). Seven whole dollars and ninety-nine cents – plus tax! – went to this e-book.

So yeah, I had some high expectations. Keep reading to find out if they were met…

Cover Talk: Meh. Kinda looks like she’s about to get her head cut off by gone-but-not-forgotten-bae Ned Stark.

The Deal Summary Heist: “Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.”

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky.

My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.

But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

Robyn Says: Let’s just get it right out in the open.

I have no idea how I feel about this book.

Like, I literally cannot tell you if I liked it or not. And I’ll be damned if I know whether I’d recommend it. You know what, Imma fall back on the tried-and-true pros and cons list. Except, because this blog is an experiment in self-indulgent, irritating, Absurdist literary criticism, let’s do it my way.

HUZZAH – This is an adult fantasy romance. And there is definitely not enough quality adult fantasy romance to be had. Sometimes YA just won’t do it, you know? (Grace Draven is an excellent author to check out if you’re looking for adult fantasy romance, by the way.). But that leads me to my next point…

BOO-HISS-BOO – It was fantasy-lite. What little world-building there was felt desultory and stale. However…

HUZZAH – Harmon is a good writer. I wanted to keep reading, and I thought the plot, bare as it was, was well-paced.There were dozens of sentences pretty enough to high-light or use as a caption for your moody instagram post. But…

BOO-HISS-BOO – I hated so so much about the story itself. It’s hard to go into much detail without being too spoilery, but if you’re hoping for a feminist read, you’re going to be disappointed. The voiceless heroine, Lark, calls to mind the Little Mermaid (the douchey hero, Tiras, calls to mind every prick boyfriend you’ve ever been happy to see the back of). I kept hoping that when Lark eventually, inevitably regained her power, she would gain some agency. Alas, no. And then there’s the romance, which earns another…

BOO-HISS-BOO – My god, the romance. Exaggerated airquotes around that word, guys. If a man ever spoke to me the way Tiras did, it would be u g l y. Violent. Bloody. Murder-y. I don’t care what anyone says, guys, there is no way to romanticize half the shit he says to Lark. It is not grumpy-but-soft-hearted, lovable-ashole shit. That shit is my ultimate jam, believe. And this is not that. The worst had to be the way he ordered her around. Ugh ugh ugh. Not cool.  And then there’s the fact that…

BOO-HISS-BOO – I kinda felt like not much happened? Like, there were a few battles, and a final showdown with the big baddie (whose reveal was not too shabby, I will admit), but it felt like a lot of telling versus showing. The adrenaline rush of reading a really good action scene was totally absent for me.

So yeah. Bit of a puzzle, this one.

Verdict: Read it – fantasy romances are like Albino Alligators – rare as fuck, so even if it’s a nightmare, you gotta slow down and take a look.

I am a metaphor for fantasy romances. What are you a metaphor for?

Best Lines: I highlighted a few sentences and passages. One of my faves: “I wondered if weakness wasn’t just as dangerous. The weak allowed evil to flourish.” BOOM, RELEVANT.

Rating: Six? Yeah, let’s go with six our of ten distressed damsels who don’t need any help from jack-ass dudes with swords, thank you very much.

rupi-kaur

Preach, sis.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT: If I had any magical power whatsoever I would wreak terrible, terrible havoc on this world. Like, I know I would be the villain, without question. God, I wish I had some magical powers…

 

Oh, here’s Book Cat, with a quick reminder:

As the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”                       Resist, humans, and remember we are stronger together. Stay angry, stay hopeful.

Wise words, Titus.Wise words, indeed. Stay strong, guys.

– xoxo, your sister in the Revolution, R.

 

Call me CALL ME on the liiiiine: A Fun Size Review

Greetings, earthlings. Today I’ve got another FUN SIZE REVIEW to chuck at you (quick, duck, here it comes). Hopefully it distracts you from whatever political/educational/existential is currently plaguing you. I’m currently sitting at the reference desk trying not to think about what I’ll do when my contract expires in, oh, 51 days, 5 hours and 51 minutes, rendering me a librarian without a library job once again. HURRY LET’S TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE VERY QUICKLY TO AVOID THE TEARS.

Okay. Fun size review. Here we go. Today I’m going to shout at you about A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Prepare for the feels. ALL THE FEELS.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91o1jl2PnFL.jpg

ROBYN’S FUN-SIZE REVIEW OF A MONSTER CALLS BY PATRICK NESS: There are sad books and then are Why-did-god-give-me-emotions? books. This is the second kind. But the interesting thing is that this book is also uplifting, too. It reminded me, in all the best ways, of The Little Prince, in that this book is also about Life and Lessons to get through Life. This book is about loss, in all its forms. The loss of a loved one, of one’s sense of self, even of reality, but Ness also deftly handles questions of fractured families, broken friendships, and the strength – and weaknesses – we find ourselves during our darkest times.

And it will make you feel. Like this

and this

and finally this.

And it turns out there’s a film adaptation in theatres near you right now. I have not seen it, but I plan to. As soon as my tear reservoir has refilled itself to allow me to shed the maximum amount of tears possible as I gleefully indulge in the sweet, sweet heartache all over again.

Also, Liam Neeson is in it.

So yeah. A Monster Calls. Read it.

Stay gold, pony-boys and pony-girls.

xoxo – R

What’s a God to a Non-believerrrrr

Happy new year, book nerds! 2017 is going to be our year, I can feel it!

ohfuckyeahcillianmurphy: “…by order of the Peaky Blinders! ”

And would you believe it, I’m already 4 books into my 2017 reading challenge. I know, I’m a hero.

For my first review of 2017, I’m actually going to talk about the last book I read in 2016 – one I mentioned in my last post. Turns out, the last quarter of the book was as good as the rest of it. It’s The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky.

(I’m actually pretty disappointed with this cover. It’s far too generic, considering how great the book was.)

The Deal: (pilfered from the back of the book, you know how it goes)…

MANHATTAN HAS MANY SECRETS.
SOME ARE OLDER THAN THE CITY ITSELF.

Manhattan. The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone-just the way she likes it. She doesn’t believe in friends, and she doesn’t speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous.

Murders. In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago. To protect the innocent-and to punish those who stand in her way.

Gods. With the NYPD out of its depth, Selene vows to hunt the killer on her own. But when classics professor Theo Schultz decodes the ancient myth behind the crime, the solitary Huntress finds herself working with a man who’s her opposite in every way. Together, they face a long-forgotten cult that lies behind a string of murders, and they’ll need help from the one source Selene distrusts most of all: the city’s other Immortals.

Robyn says: I *love* retellings of mythology. It is one of those really narrow subgenres that I’m completely obsessed with. I didn’t actually hear about this book from any of my usual sources, though (twitter, tumblr, and goodreads, to be specific). This book first came to my attention when it was reviewed by one of the wonderful Smart Bitches here. It’s a pretty stellar review, for all that it was only given a B rating. I actually really enjoyed The Immortals, and while I prefer a numerical rating system, if forced to use a letter grade, this would definitely merit an A from me.

Without a doubt, the best part of this book was the world-building. The author did a terrific job of explaining how the Greek gods had ended up in New York City, and created a system the explained how the gods’ existence was tied to the faith of their followers – and how that existence was imperiled as new gods displaced them. I thought the characters were, for the most part, quite well-conceived, though Selene really was the stand-out: resilient, tough, ruthless, and independent. Total HBIC and feminist eh eff. I never really warmed to Theo – he’s not the kind of romantic lead I’m partial to, and even overlooking his unsuitability as a match for the ass-kicking Selene, he was also kind of a pretentious git. One of those converse-wearing, long-haired, “call-me-Dave” profs that I always hated. Also, if I ever heard anyone use ‘Holy Roman Empire’ as an exclamation, I would have to sit on my hands to resist from punching that person in his smug face. It was really interesting to see where the other Greek gods had ended up, and I also enjoyed the archaeological and classicist Easter eggs the author scattered throughout the story.

As far as plot goes, it wasn’t the most difficult mystery to solve, but I still really enjoyed reading it. It was literally UNPUTDOWNABLE. I was late for work a few times because I was trying to read while also doing my hair and packing my lunch. And then when I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the story – and that, in my opinion, is the highest recommendation anyone can give a book.

Minor quibble – I felt the ending was a bit sudden, and I was left with quite a few questions. I know there’s going to be a sequel (and hopefully more after that) but I would have liked a bit more of a resolution, particularly in terms of Selene and Theo’s relationship. Overall, though, it was an original, well-written, highly enjoyable book.

And it gave me an excuse to scroll through the mythology edits on tumblr!

So pretty.

Verdict: Read it. Who doesn’t need more ass-kicking Greek goddesses in their lives, right?

Best lines: (I really need to get better at writing down quotes while I’m reading.) One by one, the nymphs had grown wan and weary, their glossy hair dulled, their long limbs attenuated. The changing world saved no room for the creatures of glade and spring. Selene still felt drawn to the trees, those hardy denizens of the city, eking out a life among cement and steel. Yet she found little comfort in them–only heartache, a remembrance of the companions she’d lost. One more reason she chose not to live in the forests and mountains that were her birthright. Too often, the woods only reminded her just how alone she really was. (somewhere in chapter 4, I can’t remember the page number)

Rating: 8 out of 10 spooky palimpsests that can only be detected using fancy high-tech multispectral imaging.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT: Is it wrong that I have always found the Persephone myth really freaking hot? Yes? Whatever. All I’m saying is, if that if the ground opened up a sexy creepy underworld god offered to make me his queen, I wouldn’t exactly be struggling.

Hey! Book Cat, happy new year!

Displaying 20161218_125054.jpg

I’m a shark. Leave me alone, librarian.

Okay. 2017. Greek gods and shark cats. I like it. Keep it going.

xoxo -R

2016: They’re good books, Brent.

Alright, book nerds.  It’s that time of year again. Namely, the end of it. And thank christ for that, right? What a nightmare.

⇑ 2016 ⇑

But as much as 2016 has fucking sucked in most ways, it’s actually been a pretty great year for me in terms of reading. (Oh and I also FINALLY got a librarian job, so OMGYAY for me, putting that masters to good use at last, guess I’m not a complete failure anymore, am I, world, am I??)

Anyway. Let’s dive in to the good books.

Robyn’s Year of Reading: 2016 Edition

NB: Not all of these books were published in 2016. I just read them in 2016. If you have a problem with that, get out.

Fantasy

I’m starting with my favourite genre, because I feel like genre fiction in general and fantasy specifically is still unfairly overlooked. And since we’re talking favourites, I might as well start with my favourite book of the year… *drumroll* City of Blades, the second book in the Divine Cities series by Robert Jackson Bennett, twitter god and author bae. I didn’t actually review the book on the blog, because I had Emotions that would not be wrestled into words (and also, we all remember what happened the last time I tried to review an RJB book, right?), but it has everything you didn’t even know you wanted in a fantasy: bad-ass characters that you love more than most of your blood relations (one of whom is a tough, one-armed, HBIC general that also happens to be a middle-aged woman, no biggie), a complex plot full of action and twists, and grim political intrigue that mirrors, sometimes uncannily, the hellscape that is our own world. It will make you think about war and its devastating cost on the people it touches, the very notion of civilization, and whether we can ever really forgive our fathers. It will break your fucking heart.

Oh, and Sigrud is back.

So yeah, City of Blades, a Very Good Book, 13 out of 10, would want to have with me on a desert island, READ IT, weep for 18 hours, then read it again.

crying feels matthew mcconaughey emotional interstellar

The other fantasy I liked was mostly YA, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, the sequel to Six of Crows, was as amazing and gut-wrenching and ship-exploding as I’d hoped. My poor sweet murder-babies. And I Darken by Kiersten White was a goddamn delightful storm of gender-swapping, history-rewriting, and unlikeable-protagonist meets Strong Female Character. Surprising no one, A Court of Mist of Fury by Sarah J. Maas gave me Feelings, and yeah, it wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed far more than the first book, it gave me at least three new book boyfriends, and it was almost hot enough to be placed in the smut category.

“Literary Fiction” (so pretentious)

I read a few “literary fiction” (ugh ugh ugh) titles this year that I really liked, which surprised me because I’m not a pretentious dick usually a fan of this absurdly ill-defined genre. Ahem. But yeah, I really enjoyed Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I finally got around to reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which was great as everyone said it was (and is also probably more high-brow science-fiction but screw the shackles of categorization). Another retelling I liked was Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy, a modern interpretation of The Great Gatsby.

The best of the lit fic was undoubtedly Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno, a short story collection that I reviewed here. So good. I’ve been pushing on everyone who’s asked me for book recommendations (and quite a few people who didn’t). You should also probably read it.

Nonfiction

Not many this year. I had resolved to read two nonfiction books a month this year, but yeah, that… didn’t happen. Like the rest of the world, I fell in love with Hamilton and its creator, Lin Manuel Miranda, and picked up Hamilton: The Revolution. I was not disappointed. And I finally learned the words to “My Shot.” I also read Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown (and reviewed it here) – I didn’t love it, but in hindsight, I learned a lot about chess and have been using those juicy knowledge tidbits to impress potential lovers at the many dinner parties and high society soirees which I most definitely do attend on a regular basis.

New Girl season 5 jake johnson funny face nick miller

Moving on.

Poetry

movies wes anderson poetry moonrise kingdom smartass

If you’re on tumblr, and espeicallly if you’re on the book part of tumblr (booklr, I kid you not), you have seen a hundred thousand artfully-lighted pictures of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, probably placed on a table made of reclaimed hipster wood, probably with a cup of coffee ruined by ‘latte art’ somewhere in the frame. Despite all of this, it’s actually a great collection of poetry. I even cried a bit.

Romance

the addams family raul julia morticia addams anjelica huston gomez addams

I didn’t actually read that many romances this year, because love is an illusion and men are pricks I think I read too many last year and was kind of sick of being reminded of my perpetual spinsterhood. HOWEVER. One of my favourite books of the year happened to be a romance: Act Like It by Lucy Parker. Absolutely delicious. I recently reread it and it was EVEN BETTER, which I didn’t think was possible because it’s actually perfect and makes even my cold, stone heart a little swoony. Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game was another good romance – both it and Act Like It feature the incomparable Enemies to Lovers to trope. So basically:

love flirting swoon swooning

On the YA front, I finally manged to read Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You. Sweet, light-hearted, clean romance.

Which brings us to…

Smut

I may not have read that many romances this year, but god help me, I read a metric fuck-tonne of smut. And most of it was fucking. awful.

Two that I am not embarrassed to admit that I read, though, were Mr. President by Katy Evans and Royally Screwed by Emma Chase. The former I read over that hellish nightmare of a week that preceded the American presidential election, so it was smutty *and* surreal, while the latter features a sexy prince. Need-I-say-more-I-think-not-you’re-welcome.

Cookbooks

Whatever, cookbooks totally count. Best of the year was Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine & Beyond by Olia Hercules. Do you know how hard it is to find cookbooks with Eastern European recipes? And do you know much harder it is to find cookbooks with Eastern European recipes that are also pretty and written in English?? Very hard. I’ve made a couple things from this book and they’ve turned out wonderfully. This 1/4 Ukrainian girl is very satisfied. (And also, 10 points to Olia for naming her cookbook after a made-up Slavic dance from The Addams Family. Hero.)

And that’s it. My best of 2016. What a year.

I’m currently reading The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky, and I should it finish it before the year is up. If the last 40 pages are as good as the previous 396 have been, it’s definitely one of Good Books of the year. So yay.

Oh, here’s Titus.

Not that anyone asked me, librarian, but *my* Best Book of the year was Felines of New York: A Glimpse into the Lives of New York’s Feline Inhabitants, as told by the felines of New York to a human man, Jim Tews. It was a fascinating look into the lives of modern metropolitan felines, a subject, I NOTE, that has been sorely underrepresented in your own list.

Ha ha, thanks, T!

Well, guys, all we have to do is survive these last two days of 2016 and then the nightmare’s over.

Here’s to 2017. May it be full of good books.

xoxo -R

Strike the harp and join the chorus!

WHAT IS UP, MY SCRUMPTIOUS GINGERBREAD PEOPLE? It’s Christmas time, and you know what that means…

Books. Everything, always, forever, is books. Duh.

So to celebrate this festive season, here’s a list of my all-time fave Chrimbooks. (Christmas = Chrimbo, + books. Chrimbooks. Whatever, it’s a thing. Or it will be. Deal.)

Ok, hold on to your santa hats, let’s get this festive list started!

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Duh. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m basically Ebeneezer Scrooge pre-Christmsa Eve revelation, I genuinely love this book. I’m sure you know the story, so I won’t summarize, but if you haven’t read it, do. It’s short, it’s a classic, and it will tug at those heartstrings. And then when you’ve read it, watch what is quite possible the best film adaptation of any novel ever: A Muppet Christmas Carol.

2. My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins

This is a collection of twelve short stories by some amazing YA writers, and it is festive af. I love almost every story, but I think my favourites are Rainbow’s Rowell’s story about a string of New Year’s Eves and an evolving friendship, “Krampuslauf” by Holly Black, about a truly magical and slightly monstrous Christmas party, and “The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, which is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read, and includes embroidery magic, which is awesome.

3. A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

Fluffy romance novella from one of my favourite historical romance writers. This is also a kind of bonus epilogue to Kleypas’ Wallflower series. I really enjoyed the way the central romance, as well as the focus on Victorian Christmas traditions. Also, festive smut is the best smut (see below).

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Another classic – the opening chapter oozes Christmas – the March girls dreaming of their most coveted Christmas presents, the grand Christmas breakfast give to the less fortunate Hummell family. It’s all goddamn delightful. (Also, dibs on Christmas Ooze for the name of my Death Metal Christmas album.)

5. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

According to my great uncle Danny (okay, and a lot of people), O. Henry is one of the foremost writers of the short story in any language. If any story stands out as the must-read of his oeuvre, it’s this one. It was written in 1905, but the story feels incredibly fresh. (Bonus – it’s available to read for free online here!)

6. A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

Jean Shepherd is the god of my favourite sort of writing, the mundane epic, in which schoolyard fights become legendary battles and a Red Ryder BB gun is more precious than the Holy Grail. This collection of essays was the inspiration for the best Christmas movie ever made.

7. The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol

Christmas, Nikolai Gogol style. Funny, dark, and weird. The devil makes an appearance, of course.

8. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by *gasp* unknown!

The “Christmas game” is what sets the whole business off, so I’m counting this as festive enough for this list, fight me.

9. Sharpe’s Christmas by Bernard Cornwell

Two stories featuring everyone’s favourite sexy rifleman bastard as he thwarts the French not once, but twice. Oh, Sharpe.

10. Silent Night by Deanna Raybourn

A novella entry in the excellent Lady Julia series. I recommend reading the rest of the series first, as they’re all excellent, but I really loved this one and wished it was longer. (I also really hope we get more of this series in the future.)

11. A Very Russian Christmas

I almost started crying actual tears of joy when I found this at Type Books in Toronto. I love Christmas, but I LOVE Russian Christmas. An eclectic mix of stories by some well-known and some lesser-known Russian writers.

12. A Very Russian Christmas by Roxie Rivera

Christmas smut is good. Russian Christmas smut is even better.

 

13. Every single Harry Potter book

Christmas at Hogwarts. Is there anything better? No, no there is not.

 

Well, that’s it, reindeers and reindarlings. I hope your Christmas Eve will be as pleasant as mine. I plan to spend it curled up in bed with a good book and a sleepy cat and a steaming cup of tea.

Oh, here’s Book Cat, who’s gotten into the Christmas spirit.

Your heart’s an empty hole, your brain in full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul. You cruel, cruel Librarian.

May your Christmas be lovely and bright and warm. Best wishes from me & Titus!

xoxo Robyn

Singing Crying in the rain

What’s the word, book nerds? Yes, I’m back already. I need to cleanse the review palate after that last nightmare of a review.

So. Let’s dive into a wonderful book, which I discovered, as I do so many wonderful things, on blessed Tumblr, light of my life, fire of my heart. Ah, Tumblr, how I love thee!

Ahem. So anyway. It’s Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Behold the cover in all of its burnished glory:

So pretty…

The Deal: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Robyn says: Guys. GUYS. This book is AMAZING. Amaaaaaaaazing. I can’t even talk about it omigod shut up SHUT UP. Ugh, like, perfection. The writing itself is beautifully crafted. It’s freaking art. Art, I tell you. Ugh it hurts just talking about it. I mean–

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

DYING.

Plus, there’s character development and action and well-researched historical details and fantasy elements and a beautiful love story (that isn’t *cough* rapey as fuck *cough*). I really can’t even describe how lovely this book is. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it. As always, tumblr was right. (I love you, tumblr.) Warning, though: this book will turn you into a fathomless pool of tears. It will break the cold, black stone masquerading as a heart inside your chest. It will DESTROY you. I’m crying right now, man. (No I’m not.) (Okay, maybe a little.)

Verdict: Learn from my mistakes and do not repeat my folly of ignoring tumblr’s wisdom! READ IT.

And then when you’ve read it, join me in haunting tumblr to swoon over the fanart and edits (#tsoa, fyi)

tumblr fanart and edits

Found on tumblr…

Best lines: Hard to choose just one. Goodreads has a great collection. I think this might be my favourite, or one of them, at least: “We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” Isn’t that a perfect description of being in love? Ugh, so good.

Rating: 10 out of 10 broken hearts. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT: Sigh. Will anyone ever love me enough to slay a thousand men and eviscerate a powerful Anatolian city in my name? WILL THEY???

Oh, here’s Book Cat.

I’m too cozy to be witty. This fire has made me drowsy enough to let you pet me. In fact, you might say it’s my… Achilles’ heel. (Too soon?)

Oh, Titus. That’s cold, dude. Cold.

Stay warm, chickens!

xo, Robyn